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How Much Does an Adoption Attorney Cost?

by Maria Magher

Adoption offers couples a chance to make their dreams of having a family together come true. However, it comes at a hefty price tag for many. Adoption can cost tens of thousands of dollars, including the adoption agency fee, home study costs, counseling for the adoptive and the birth parents, medical expenses and the attorney's fee. In some cases, adoptive parents may also need to pay for travel to go get their new baby.

Average Adoption Fees

Adoption fees vary widely depending on the kind of adoption it is and the unique circumstances for each adoption. The Building Your Family adoption information website states that the average cost of a domestic adoption through an agency is $28,034. The fees are typically all handled by the agency, so a legal fee is not included separately. The average fee for preparation, which includes the home study and portfolio of the adopting couple, is $2,588. The average adoption fees are $25,446, and the average travel expenses are $1,870.

Private Adoptions

Parents who want to adopt independently can do so by working with a lawyer. Parents can be connected with birth mothers in a number of ways, including personal ads, medical center contacts or the lawyer handling the adoption. Professionals with Building Your Family say that the average cost for a private adoption is $27,734, only slightly lower than an agency adoption. Attorney fees make up a large portion of that expense. The Building Your Family site says that average attorney fees are $7,000 to $10,000 for private adoptions. Adoptive parents have to pay legal fees for themselves and the birth mother. Hourly fees vary by state, type of adoption and the experience of the attorney, but some attorneys can charge $200 to $300 per hour.

International Adoptions

International adoptions have become more popular, particularly adopting from countries like China, Russia and Ethiopia. These adoptions can be just as expensive, if not more than, domestic adoptions. According to the Building Your Family website, the average cost of adoption from Ethiopia is $27,612, while the average cost of adoption from Russia is $58,635. Most international adoptions are handled through agencies, and the American Bar Association website says that most agencies handle all the legal matters. Therefore, the attorney fee is not broken out but is included in the overall adoption fee.

Foster Care Adoptions

Prospective parents can also adopt children from the foster care system after being licensed as foster parents. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a foster adoption can cost up to $2,500. Legal fees comprise the bulk of this fee. The agency estimates that the cost for document preparation can be $500 to $2,000, and the cost of an attorney can be $2,500 to $6,000. However, the majority of these fees, if not all of them, are usually reimbursable by the state. The Adoptive Families website says that 90 percent of children adopted in the foster system in 2011 qualified for a subsidy by the state because they met a "special needs" status, which can include being older or having a sibling. Therefore, in many cases, the cost of adopting is zero.

Other Factors Affecting Fees

Many variables in the adoption process can change the legal fees associated with it. A birth mother may change her mind and back out of the adoption at the last minute or may contest the adoption. A birth father who had previously not been identified may come forward and contest the adoption. In these and other cases, adopting parents need to work with an attorney, which can increase their legal fees. Depending on the complexity of the situation, couples could pay thousands more in legal fees.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

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